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Black Duck Book Chat at the CHMM

October 27, 2010


Janet Taylor Lisle's acclaimed book "Black Duck" provided the backdrop for an intriguing evening discussion among Nock Middle School students, parents, teachers, and members of the U.S. Coast Guard who filled the Moseley Gallery at the Custom House Maritime Museum on Wednesday, October 27th.

Black Duck Discussion

The "Black Duck" story takes place in 1929, in Newport, RI, and prohibition is in full swing. While combing the beach for lost lobster traps, Ruben and his friend Jeddy, 14, discover a body. By the time they convince the authorities to check it out, the dead man has disappeared, and soon both New York and Boston mobs are chasing after Ruben.

The author explores the subject of Prohibition as well as various underlying social themes. She shows the difficulty of staying honest while everyone else is breaking the law including local authorities who are all seemingly in on the action. Complicating the issue further is the Coast Guard's shooting of three men believed to be rumrunners, and whether the deaths were justified.

As author Janet Taylor Lisle explains, "One of the strange truths I came upon growing up is that the rock-solid, old-fashioned TRUTH I was taught to admire and aspire to as a child doesn’t really exist... Many of my books are woven with threads of these human dilemnas: What is right? What is wrong? What to do when two rights collide?"

Black Duck

The evening's fertile discussion was organized by 7th grade teachers at Newburyport's Nock Middle School, while the Newburyport Education Business Coalition provided students copies of "Black Duck" books through a generous grant.  The Custom House Maritime Museum's Education Committee proudly hosted this fine example of a business-education collaboration -- that included participation of members of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Assistant Superintendent of Newburyport Schools, Deirdre Farrell, was on hand to observe and participate in the event.

Prior to the start of the evening's discussion a brief tour of the Custom House Maritime Museum was provided for participants.


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